And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! (Wisdom 11:20-22)
We all survive our death. The Wisdom of Solomon reveals the great insight unique to Judeo/Christianity that the God who creates us also sustains us with his imperishable spirit. Further, Jesus’ death and resurrection promises that not only do we survive our death, but we will also flourish, if we are united to Him in the General Resurrection of the Body. This truth is so ingrained in our Catholic faith that we have rituals and seasons for celebrating this reality. For example, this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, we celebrate All Saints and All Souls. These twin celebrations remind us of the connective power of our faith. On All Saints Day, we ask for divine intercession from those who have arrived at their eternal reward and yet are not officially recognized as canonized saints. These “hidden” saints whom we encounter in our life can be a powerful source of inspiration and encouragement. Christ’s Gospel promise that he should not lose anything of what his Father gives him, assures us that the familial and fraternal relationships that we forge in life continue beyond the grave. For this reason, All Saints Day this Tuesday is a Holy Day of Obligation and in addition to our regular Mass schedule, we have a 7:30 pm Mass.
This brings us to consider why we pray for our deceased. Flowing from their Jewish traditions, the early Christians gathered to worship in catacombs and places of burial as a visible sign of the connection they shared with those who had died. On All Souls Day, the worldwide Church is encouraged to specifically pray for those who continue their journey towards their eternal reward. The Catechism says, “Our prayers for [our beloved departed] are capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.” (CCC 958) This means that we can both pray for and pray to those who have gone before us. For them, life is changed not ended and so death does not sever our relationship with them. We can still make a difference in their lives, and when we do, they can make a difference in ours.
Here at St. Dominic’s, we have many ways to remember our beloved departed all year round, e.g., through offering Masses, lighting candles. During this month of November, there are particular ways to connect with those who have gone before us. For an example, we begin this Wednesday with our annual Solemn Requiem Mass at 7:30 pm. This year Mozart’s arrangement draws us into the worship of God and our remembrance of and prayers for our beloved deceased. Moreover, you are invited to fill out envelopes for your loved ones which will be placed on our altar and be remembered at all our Masses this month. Also, I encourage you to visit the Holy Soul Altar and to inscribe the names of deceased loved ones in our Book of the Dead.
During this month of November let's resolve to pray for all the dead, and not just our family members and friends. If you are not sure what or how to pray for them, I suggest the traditional prayer: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
~ Fr. Michael